Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Newsweek: “Is That a Bible in Your Pocket?”

This week’s edition of Newsweek (May 4, 2009) includes an article called: “Is That a Bible in Your Pocket?” Lisa Miller, Newsweek‘s religion editor, comments on the growing popularity of holy writ iPhone apps. Apparently, some of the most popular apps for the iPhone are versions of the Bible, the Qur’an, and so on.
Miller asks if it’s a good thing to read one’s Scripture on a cell phone, for if this is an intrusion of the technological into the spiritual realm. It seems that, in the end, Miller see advantages to having a copy of the Bible “next to your calorie counter and your Global Positioning System,” since this helps to “integrate religious practice with the rest of your life.” She continues:


In the modern West, “sacredness has become this ‘other’,” says Anne Foerst, professor of theology and computer science at St. Bonaventure University. “I find that problematic. Sacredness touches our lives constantly in the here and now. It enters what we call trivial and transcends it.” Religious apps may seem to represent modernity run amok, in other words, but they can bring holiness back into our lives where it belongs.

I agree with Miller’s conclusion here, though with some reservations. In fact, I have five Bible versions on my iPhone (NRSV, ESV, NLT, Greek NT, Hebrew OT). I love being able to carry around these texts in my pocket. In fact, my Bible app (published by Olive Tree), offers a split screen version, so I can have an English translation and an original language version showing at the same time.
My reservations about having the Bible on my iPhone have to do with temptations that come with using an iPhone in church.  If I’m checking a biblical passage during a sermon, I just might sneak a peek at the news, especially if the sermon’s boring. I won’t admit in such a public place whether I’ve actually done that or not. But, suffice it to say that I’d be better off putting my phone in Airplane Mode while in a worship service. (For those of you who are not iPhone users, Airplane Mode allows me to have my iPhone on, but without any phone or Internet service.)
Nevertheless, I do like the idea that my Bible lives in the same world as my calendar, my daily news sources, and my to-do list. This fact helps to dismantle the sacred-secular distinction that keeps so many Christians from living as disciples of Jesus every moment of every day.

  • Thomas Buck

    We turn on our TracFone maybe ten times a year. I don’t even know where it is right now – somewhere around the house here. As far as I know, I can’t put any Bible software on it.
    On the other hand, I love the Bible software on my desktop computer. It’s got several versions, though I pretty much keep it on NIV. The concordance feature on the computer software is wonderful.
    Which reminds me, I’ve intended to revisit your series of posts on “inclusive language” from a couple of years back. That was really helpful, and I’m going to read it again.
    Have a great day, Rev. Roberts!

  • Ray

    I’m pretty cheap, so a phone with enough bells & whistles (and a big enough screen to make it all worthwhile) isn’t in my pocket. However, I travel frequently on business, and I always carry my laptop with me. Over the years I have gotten into the habit of reading scripture on I can search, read several versions, and do a lot of things I can’t do with a printed Bible. Plus I have this blog to reference! In fact, although I carry my Bible to church with me, I find myself reading on my laptop even when I’m at home. The downside is that it’s not in my pocket all the time (but, then, neither was my big ole Bible…shhhh, don’t tell anybody).

  • Dale

    I have had my Bible on my palm phone and it has highlight and note function on it. I used it for about a year in Church but I didn’t like using the highlight or note function. I reverted back to the paper version. I still prefer it. Now if it were on a book reader, that might be cool

  • ‘Is That a Bible in Your Pocket?: New ways to download the Good Book’ : Church Leader Links

  • J Falconer

    Thanks Rev Roberts & Readers, The technology is advancing at lightning speed. The computer is nice to compare & contrast different versions of a person’s biblical study & or favorite stories & verses. I prefer some psalms & psalm 45. Of course practical application is always interesting with spiritual things. Peace & God Bless to all for our current times J

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